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Phil May, Pretty Things Frontman, Dies at 75

Billboard logo Billboard 5/17/2020 Mitchell Peters

May passed away Friday morning (May 15) at a hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, following complications from an emergency hip surgery after falling off a bicycle earlier in the week, the BBC reports.

A statement posted on Pretty Things’ website remembers May as a “remarkable singer and performer” who “danced to a different drummer.”

“His work across 55 years encompasses some of the true high points of rock music from its’ early R&B roots — right through to the present day,” the statement reads. “He was a unique, and consistently challenging and creative man, who was never ready to give up his freedom to be what he chose to be, for money or even fame.”

Born in Dartford, Kent, in 1944, May formed the Pretty Things in 1963 with guitarist Dick Taylor, an early bass player for the Rolling Stones. The group, known for its wild stage antics, became an integral part of the London blues-rock scene, earning success with songs like “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Honey I Need” and “Cry to Me.”

Pretty Things was perhaps best known for its 1968 album, SF Sorrow, which many credit as the first rock opera album. By the late ’60s, May’s music moved toward progressive psych-rock and he become known for his long hair, drug use and bisexuality.

May was reportedly diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema in 2014. After recovering the following year, Pretty Things released its most album, The Sweet Pretty Things (Are in Bed Now, of Course…).

Pretty Things will release an album of new material later this year, according to its website.

The band played its final concert in 2018, with guest appearances by David Gilmour and Van Morrison.

May is survived by his son Paris, daughter Sorrel, and partner Colin Graham, according to the Guardian.

See tributes to May below.

In Memoriam 2020: Remembering the stars we lost

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